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Shifu Shi Yan MingOctober 6, 2006

Shifu Shi Yan-Ming: Shaolin Monk in New York

Top 10 Martial Arts
I first came across Shifu Shi Yan-Ming (Master Yan-Ming), about 5 years back in Canada with TheLearningChanel's (TLC) “The Ultimate Ten Martial Arts”. They featured Yan-Ming as the Shaolin Kung-Fu master. Nothing extra-ordinary about that...there are a good number of Shaolin monks making the rounds in North America as part of a tour. What caught my attention was, he defected and put up his own Shaolin Temple in New York and started teaching Kung-Fu, contrary to the wishes of the local Chinese martial arts masters. I thought this guy was ultra-cool. But that was the last time I heard of him...until now.

Super Human Feats
In the program, he was shown bending a spear with his neck, as the tip pressed further against his throat. In an exhibition, wooden staff broke into pieces as he was hit by his disciples. His body was impregnable. He attributes this ability through his chi - (aka - subtle life force, prana or qi gong) . He developed his chi during the years he trained as a child-monk and into his adult years within the walls of the Shaolin Temple in China.

Martials Arts Week
Now that it's martials arts week at the National Geographic Channel, he was featured as the Shaolin monk in New York. I was totally stoked. This time, I get a full hour of just him (instead of a snippet). The more I learned about him, the more I was fascinated, more so, with what people say about him. Rappers, directors, media types regard him as their spiritual master.

Like Bruce Lee
I couldn't help but see parallelism between him and my old idol, Bruce Lee. Like Bruce, he spent most of his life learning Kung-Fu. Like Bruce, the world just called out and he left the comfort of his old country and into a strange land. Like Bruce, he founded his own martial arts school and was accosted by the Chinese community for teaching Kung-Fu to the 'white man'. Like Bruce, he held his ground. Like Bruce, he had newfound celebrity. The rest is history.

Chilling with the Homeboyz
With his celebrity, he now rubs elbows with the rich, famous and the notorious...the entire time exuding his aura of a spiritual man, dispensing morsels of wisdom whenever appropriate. He loves life and lives it to the hilt, contrary to the stereo-type of an ascetic monk who lives a celibate life in austerity.

Life Tenet
Given the barriers he hurdled and the mold he's broken to pursue his calling (and predestination?), he was quoted as saying, "I live life on my own terms...I do what I want to do and go where I want to go". That really resonated. The last 6 years of my life was lived along those tenets. The validation of a monk who has seen more and been through so much more, goes a long way.

A Red Flag
As I visited his site and went to the virtual store, I noticed that signed books sold for roughly 50% more than unsigned copies. In a capitalistic system of free enterprise, nothing wrong with that - I'm a free market advocate. I just wish that his celebrity won't get the better of him. I've seen too many magnificent lives crumble in the wake of celebrity, commercialism and power.

Ending Thoughts
I'm always hungry to come across a magnificent life who can inspire me and validate the life choices I've made - either in the flesh or in the tube, virtually, or through hard copy. It doesn't happen everyday. Yan-Ming is definitely one such life. After the TLC feature, I never forgot about him. The choices he made, his life tenets, and his super-human capacity left an indelible mark in my psyche. His sense of predestination to break the mold and venture out to where the world calls him leaves me awed. This is but just a glimpse. The best of Yan-Ming is yet to be revealed.

It's too bad I missed him in New York. I left New York in '89 (after a 5-year stay) and he arrived there '92. Had I still been there, I would have seeked him out and beg to be his student.

New York isn't that too distant. I still have some friends I'd like to see, trails I'd like to ride again (read: RCA Trail - the best 20-mile single-track I've ever hammered on), and now, the prospect of meeting Yan-Ming and maybe soak-in his spiritual aura. With this renegade Shaolin monk in New York, the big apple just got a little sweeter.

--- TheLoneRider

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